Staying Alive: Does Jamaica have a version of Guantanamo Bay going in one of its prisons?

Clovis, The Observer

I’d heard over the last few weeks that August Town’s Christopher Linton (Dog Paw), accused of being leader of the Dog Paw gang, was severely beaten more than once at the Horizon Adult Remand Centre where he has been held for the last few months. Apparently the area he and other supposedly high-risk inmates were being held is known as Security Post 11 and is modeled on Guantanamo Bay.

Security Post 11 is strictly under the control of the Jamaica Defence Force, not the Police, and reportedly no correctional officers or Police are allowed entry. Since Dog Paw was transferred there he has been systematically and brutally beaten. The beatings were so severe that Linton was worried about losing his life; memories of his older brother who had died in custody after police beat him up still being fresh in his mind.

Yesterday news broke that Linton wasn’t the only one being subjected to such vicious punishment by the soldiers. The Sunday Gleaner carried a cover story about Livity Coke, Dudus’s half brother, also in the same facility, being subjected to an even worse assault by soldiers who left him for dead at the feet of the prison doctor. Apparently Livity played dead until he was close enough to the doctor when he shouted to her “Mi no dead, mi no dead, mi no dead!” Perhaps he remembered the case of the man who played possum after being shot by the police some weeks ago…see my NOT dead on arrival! No Sir! I will not rest in peace! from a few weeks ago for details.

In fact four other ‘Dons’ were meted out similar treatment: Tesha Miller (leader of the Spanish Town-based Klansman gang), Joel Andem (Gideon Warriors), Christopher Linton (Dog Paw Gang),  Kevin Tyndale alias Richie Poo. So what’s going down at the Horizon Adult Remand Centre? Dr. Jephtha Ford who alerted the Gleaner about the near killing of Livity by JDF soldiers told Nationwide’s Cliff Hughes that he thought Security Post 11 at Horizon was a virtual Guantanamo Bay.

Tthe JDF responded to the Sunday Gleaner expose by putting forward the following explanation carried on RJR’s website:

JDF clears the air on ‘Livity’ beating

The Jamaica Defence Force, JDF, is moving to clear the air regarding an incident in which Leighton “Livity” Coke the brother of  former Tivoli Gardens strongman Christopher “Dudus” Coke was injured at the Horizon Adult Remand Centre.  It has issued a statement outlining the circumstances in which Mr. Coke had to be subdued at the maximum security facility which is manned by soldiers.

Mr. Coke, who is being held on charges of  illegal possession of  a firearm and shooting at members of  the security forces during the incursion into Tivoli Gardens in May 2010, reportedly sustained wounds to his head.  According to the JDF, in the days leading up to the February 21 incident, inmates at Horizon became boisterous and were resisting security procedures at the facility. The decision was made to temporarily remove them to another section to facilitate a clean-up.

As they were being prepared for relocation some of  the prisoners resisted, barricaded themselves in their cells and hurled expletives at the soldiers.  According to the JDF, the soldiers were able to restrain the protesters by using an appropriate level of  force and physically lifting them to their designated cells.

When the time came to move Mr. Coke he reportedly resisted and attempted to walk back to his cell. He was stopped by the soldiers and reportedly punched a JDF sergeant and lance corporal in their faces and wrestled a baton from another.  The statement says Mr. Coke wielded the baton at the soldiers. He was eventually restrained by other soldiers using batons following which it was discovered that he was bleeding. The soldiers who were involved in subduing Mr. Coke walked him to the prison’s medical facility where he was treated and subsequently sent to the University Hospital for precautionary x-rays.

Doctors at the hospital determined that his injuries were minor and he was taken back to the remand centre.  By that time the cleanup was completed and Mr. Coke was returned to his original cell. On the same day, preliminary investigations were conducted by the JDF’s Inspector-General’s Department and the matter reported to the Independent Commission of  Investigations, INDECOM.

The Gleaner had a few more details:

The JDF was yesterday forced to issue a media release after The Sunday Gleaner highlighted that Coke, the brother of confessed crime boss Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, was beaten by soldiers at the remand centre.

The JDF said Coke was among several inmates at the HARC who reportedly engaged in the throwing of water, food, faeces, and other refuse from their cell as a means of resistance to being held under special conditions at the facility.

According to the JDF, which supervises the facility, the decision was taken to temporarily move the inmates from their cells in order to clean up the area. The force said some inmates protested that the movement was taking place during time normally reserved for recreational activities.

Well, if what the JDF says is true, their security cameras would be able to corroborate some or all of this right? Dr. Jephtha Ford contradicts the JDF’s assessment of Livity’s injuries being ‘minor’. He describes them as life-threatening and has sent his medical report to the Prime Minister. In the Gleaner article he also accused the PNP government of being behind the beatings but this seems implausible when you take into account the beatings administered to Dog Paw, who is very much a PNP supporter.

Incidentally Horizon is the same prison that Vybz Kartel allegedly broke out of in that infamous instance of false news that went viral last November. The following is excerpted from an MTV article that came out at the time:

Kartel, real name Adidja Palmer, allegedly started a riot at the Horizon Adult Remand Centre, where he was being held whilst under investigation over his possible involvement in up to seven murders.

It is reported that Kartel and several other prisoners managed to take control of the prison shortly after 1am local time this morning (30/11/11), taking clothes and keys from guards before escaping in a prison maintenance pickup truck at approximately 1.45am.

One police officer is thought to have died of a heart attack during the escape with at least twelve others injured, including two who were shot with guns apparently smuggled into the prison ahead of the raid.

The Force Commissioner of Jamaica’s Criminal Investigations Branch apparently confirmed that Kartel, who has previously worked with the likes of Eminem, Jay-Z and Akon, is on the run and that he and the other escapees are now on the island’s most wanted list.

Countering this, the Jamaica Observer has now alleged that reports of Vybz’ escape were started as a joke by an anonymous blogger, and that Jamaican police have no knowledge of the incident.

According to the Observer, The Assistant Commissioner of Police, Les Green, said that the reports are false.

“I know nothing about that. If that had taken place I would would certainly have known,” he said.

Another unnamed police officer added, “It may be an attempt by his cronies to keep him in the news but they don’t need to spread rumours to do that because he will be in the news for quite some time.”

Concerned individuals may be interested to know that the so-called Horizon ‘Adult’ Remand Centre also houses children The entire setup begs investigation by the media. In the absence of the late Wilmot Perkins who will take up the challenge?

One thought on “Staying Alive: Does Jamaica have a version of Guantanamo Bay going in one of its prisons?

  1. Pingback: Jamaica: Inmate Beatings · Global Voices

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